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Soccer as a Metaphor for Business

Soccer attracts the masses. Studying the behavior of the masses helps in uncovering emerging behavior trends that could be helpful to all businesses. socccer fans represent a wide sample for studying why people behave the way they do.

I may extend the above conclusion towards the detection of new social trends and even before, they emerge in the business domain.

What question proved the idea seed of this post?

I asked myself what makes soccer fans behave the way they do. Just think about it by considering the pains fans encounter going to a stadium to watch a football match, they are numerous pains such as the pain of buying tickets, of going to crowded places, of buying t-shirts of the team they favor, of going too early for matches. They wait hours for the match to start and the pain of seeing their favorite team lose. This is not to forget the possibility of getting hurt by the fans of the competing teams,

What do these fans get in return?

They get delight from experiencing alive their team’s win and sharing with other fans the joy of winning. If they lose, they do not suffer in loneliness and this “social-sharing” softens their feelings of pain. They do not get monetary incentives and still keep showing their loyalty game after game. They even travel to costly places to watch their team playing away from home.

What makes them so loyal to the soccer team is not easily explainable and I feel it defies logic sometimes. Even though they discover the costs and pains of loyalty, they stay loyal and do not churn off.

Thinking deeper reveals other factors for fans prompting fans to behave the way they do. I am trying to focus on what I believe the “heavy-weight ones” to keep this post in a reasonable size.

Self-actualization is one reason. Soccer is not rocket science and every fan feels he has the right to share his ideas and “expertise” even though some of them have never played soccer. The fans judge the players, the referees, and their decisions, in which formation their team should play, which players to leave out, and many more. They fill the need of having social recognition for the pain of not having it is high.

The VUCA of soccer games is another reason.

Soccer games are hard to predict their results for many reasons. Players mood, flashes of creative plays, unthinkable silly mistakes by goalkeepers, mistakes of referees, state of the playing ground, personality of coach, team formation and strategy and tactics of playing relate to the on-field factors. Fans pressure, TV coverage, weather, and sudden accidents such as jetting a key player injured just before the game are examples of external factors.

So many factors are an interplaying prediction of result becomes almost impossible to make correctly. It is like watching a movie with the face of the killer remaining masked and viewers keep their excitement to find out his/her identity. The excitement in soccer will stay until the referee whistles the end of the game. As long as there are even a few seconds remaining hope exists that, something might happen.

It is the uncertainty of the game and its conditions that fuel the excitement. The vagueness of the game, the volatility of the temper of the players, the ambiguity of some of the decisions of the referees, and the volatility of fans if they feel the referee is not neutral that makes them explode in anger.

If you find the above analysis logical, would businesses thrive on VUCA and turn it to their advantage? This may sound illogical, but creativity knows no logic sometimes as it defies the familiar.

The fans’ pressure towards fairness in soccer resulted in the development of VAR technology (Video-assisted-Referee). What technologies business fans can cause to emerge as well?

The volatility of fans’ emotions produces a useful paradox for business to learn and apply. Fans who say they would pick out a player to play instead of another chosen player would love to be wrong if the unpopular player shows outstanding performance. This is the paradox of being happy if wronged.

One other lesson is retired if fans start disliking your performance. Businesses should retire certain products if fans find them no more likable.

Another worthy lesson keeps trying until the final whistle. Many games were won this way. Businesses should keep trying relentlessly with patience.

One further lesson is considering your showrooms – both physical and virtual- as the stadiums in soccer. What attracts fans to stadiums may attract them to your showrooms.

Give fans what they like. Businesses may consider offering free tickets in foreign countries for loyal customers. For fanatic fans, this is a huge reward.

The dynamics of soccer and the dynamics of business have many common traits.

I end by saying that businesses should find many opportunities in the VUCA world of business and not only as a threat to their success.

Ali Anani
Ali Ananihttps://www.bebee.com/@ali-anani
My name is Ali Anani. I hold a Ph.D. from the University of East Anglia (UK, 1972) Since the early nineties I switched my interests to publish posts and presentations and e-books on different social media platforms.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Many key points in your outstanding comment Aldo Delli Paoli such as::

    1- Sports cheering responds to a great human need, namely that of social identity, the identity linked to belonging to a group, to a social category.

    2- The more I need to associate my self-esteem with something that is “outside of me”, such as a sports group, the more I will experience the success or failure of that group as something personal.

    Great points that interact and influence each other. This is a great point to show that needs of different levels on the Maslow’s Pyramid of needs are not in distant domains, but influence each other.
    As you stated rightly- once social belonging is achieved it proceeds to be an integral part of self-esteem.

    3- football is not just a game, it has values that represent it: honesty, loyalty, fairness, courage, tenacity, a sense of belonging, respect for the opponent and a spirit of sacrifice. You remind me of the SCARF model and what people want today at work, for example. SCARF stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. Soccer is the same as you stated “it is right that there are so many the interests that revolve around football and show business in an era in which finance and capital move on a global scale.

    Your comment is comprehensive and is consistent with what humans aspire for in soccer, sports, business and life in general.

  2. Football is the best known and most practiced sport in the world. Both at professional and amateur level, has become part of the life of all of us.
    But football is not just a game, it has values that represent it: honesty, loyalty, fairness, courage, tenacity, a sense of belonging, respect for the opponent and a spirit of sacrifice.
    Being a team sport, in fact, football promotes socialization with peers, which is very important for children, helping to develop concepts such as sharing, collaboration and respect.
    It is also a great ally in building a solid self-esteem, helping to increase self-confidence and in one’s own means and one learn to accept defeats: thanks to the support of the team, one learns to experience failure as part of life, and to overcome it with positivity.
    Football is often as a metaphor for life. A “secular religion” that is expressed on a geographical scale by representing peoples and their confrontation. The strong economic value, the universal visibility and the playful and social component, which as a game allows football to perform important functions for individuals, generate highly suggestive symbolic meanings, unique only to this sport. Both from the point of view of physical-sporting activities practiced by the population and with respect to those followed through media or direct participation in sporting events, football holds a privileged position in many countries of the world, having always catalyzed the interest of the public and of the financial means.
    And football is also (perhaps above all) cheering, passion, faith, love. Cheering, the real one, you find it in the eyes of a boy who rejoices, in the tears of a disappointment, in the ball that breaks through the net and makes the heart swell. Unstoppable even outside the stadium, in the disccussion inside the bar, into the family, during work break.
    It is not possible to deny how football, beyond the simple sporting dimension, is today a phenomenon of great importance both in the daily experience of many people, and for its social, economic and political implications.
    It is not easy to answer some questions that belong to the world of football: what really is passion for this sport, what characterizes the fan, his identity, his emotions, his rituals, his heroes, what is the relationship between football and the political, economic and power dimensions, it is rigth that there are so many the interests that revolve around football and show business in an era in which finance and capital move on a global scale.
    I believe that at the center of the fan’s experience is safeguarding the well-being that his passion provides. For this one must be able to manage in the best possible way that vortex of positive or negative emotions originating from the alternation of victories and defeats.
    Sports cheering responds to a great human need, namely that of social identity, the identity linked to belonging to a group, to a social category. The phenomenon of typhus goes beyond the presence at the stadium, it pervades the behavior, the motivations, the attitudes of the people also in the other circumstances of life.
    Belonging to a group is, then, motivated by the need for self-esteem. The more I need to associate my self-esteem with something that is “outside of me”, such as a sports group, the more I will experience the success or failure of that group as something personal. The fan identifies with their team and lives their story as their own story.

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